The music industry wishes young listeners would abandon low-bit-rate compressed digital music for harder-to-pirate and more profitable CDs. Contrary to the long-held belief that young listeners think lossy compressed music is “just fine,” Harman researcher Dr. Sean Olive has published results from the first peer-reviewed scientific test showing that young listeners will in fact choose CD-quality audio over lossy alternatives when given the choice. Has the dream of a new generation embracing CDs come true? Not so fast.
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Entries in sound (7)
Live shows are what a lot of our careers center around. Whether we’re in a band, manage a band, or run sound for a band, one thing is for sure, the better the band sounds, the better the show. After reading this post you’ll be able to implement some changes that will help you gain more fans, sell more merch, and have people leave with happier ears.
For the Band
“What could we do better?” is the number one question I am asked by bands after a show. Without fail, this is the answer I give them:
“Improve your tones”
Here’s what I mean: Say you are a singer songwriter. You play by yourself, your vocals and your guitar is 100% of your sound. First of all, record yourself playing, and listen back to that recording. What is the tone of your voice? Deep? Boomy? Nasally? Harsh? Thin? Full? Listen with an open mind, and see if there are things you can improve on. Next your guitar. How does the pickup sound in comparison to how the guitar sounds when you play it unplugged? Does the pickup add low end or sound too harsh in the highs? Spend some time listening to how your instruments sound, and make them sound as best as they can.
How many times have you heard this saying? It’s almost gotten to be a cliche around the recording blog world these days. It’s something, however, that I believe needs repeating. And it’s one that I am constantly reminding myself of in the studio. It’s amazing how many questions I’ve received from friends and colleagues about what kind of mics I’m using. Of course, the recommendations follow: “Oh man, you should try the enter mic of choice here on your kick drum – best mic money can buy.” Or how about, “Hey man, what’s the BEST microphone for recording vocals?” Have you fallen into this trap? I know I have.
“Garbage in, garbage out” is a common saying among mastering engineers. The quality of the source material limits the quality of the final product. Most of my clients have no problem following my simple preparation instructions, but they stop there.
They figure once each mix sounds as good as they can get it, they’re done. In fact, there’s a higher level of refinement that pays huge dividends. I’ll break it down in this mastering engineer’s guide to final mixdown (which I promised in an interview back in January - sorry for the delay!).
Bob Marley comes across as the ultimate musical rebel, though everyone—from American frat boys to Malian army officers—loves his music. Wildly successful, Marley is an enigma: Someone who managed to put obscure local music on the world map; who turned a marginalized community (Rastafarians) into admired trendsetters; who remained a humble barefooted guy even when tooling around in a BMW; who sold a boatload of records by sticking to his guns and making his music, his way. How did he do it?
He didn’t. Marley sold out.
Before you protest, think about it. Imagine, for a second, that a major figure in a subcultural movement—Minor Threat/Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye of the U.S. hardcore punk scene, let’s say—joined forces with a mainstream hip hop producer like will.i.am, and made a really great record that stayed on the charts for eons and moved units in the gazillions. Though some die-hard fans might scream that he’d sold out, he would have transformed the musical landscape.
A brand is a promise of quality and consistency. No matter where in the world you go for a McDonald’s hamburger, you know what to expect. No matter what product you purchase from Apple, you can expect sleek high-tech design and an easy to understand user interface. Brand management is protecting the image of the brand and carefully selecting how to best exploit it.
For an artist, that means a consistency of persona, and usually a consistency of sound. Regardless of what genre of music the artist delves into, the feel is the same and you can tell it’s the artist at first listen. Madonna has changed directions many times during her career but her brand has been consistent. Her persona remained the same even as she changed to and from the “Material Girl.” The Beatles tried a wide variety of directions but you never once questioned who you were listening to. It was always fresh and exciting, but distinctly them.
As a musician–a creator of sounds–it can be difficult to understand the concept that music is mostly about listening, not creating.
It’s about listening for just the right amount of silence between notes. Listening for the sounds that give you cues how to act next, and how to hone your performance.
The skill of listening is what separates the great musicians from the mediocre ones.
Becoming known as a listener will help you score gigs as a session musician and will greatly enhance your own musical mastery.
Here are four scenarios where listening can greatly affect your performance.
Listening To Other Musicians
The greatest factor to playing well with other musicians is each musician’s inherent ability to listen to each other.
Listening is an amazing tool. It will let you know when a drummer wants to end a song, or when a guitar player is stepping down to finish a solo. Listening gives you the foresight to step in and play when another musician needs help.
Listening To Your Audience
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(Updated November 2, 2013)